Officer on leave after arrest

TV tape raises possibility suspect was beaten after Howard chase

November 22, 2008|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,

Howard County police officials said yesterday that an officer has been placed on administrative leave as part of an internal investigation into the arrest of a man who led police on an erratic chase along Route 32 on Thursday.

The agency is investigating the pursuit and arrest of Stephen Zombro, 40, who was wanted on an open warrant for theft. He had been under surveillance and fled from police when they tried to stop him in Jessup on Thursday afternoon, police said.

The chase sped west on Route 32 and officers used a device to flatten three of the tires on the pickup truck Zombro was driving.

Several TV news stations recorded the chase and arrest, footage that Police Chief William McMahon later said "concerned" him.

Tape shot by WJLA-TV in Washington shows a suspect face-down on the roadway surrounded by several officers and what appears to be an officer repeatedly punching him in the back.

Zombro was taken to Howard County General Hospital, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said, adding that he had no serious injuries and was released overnight.

He was taken to the county detention center, where he was being held yesterday on a $350,000 bond, said Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the county state's attorney's office.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Zombro's sister said her brother was "brutalized."

"I'm just shocked and appalled, really, about how it all went down," said Kara Zombro, of Hanover, Pa.

"I know he's part to blame ... but in his defense, it looked like he was running for his life, the way they pulled him out of the car and beat him."

Kara Zombro said her brother is not violent and has not had aggressive contacts with police in the past.

"He's not a fighter," she said. "He's danger to himself more than anyone because of the choices he makes. He was surrendering. He was scared."

Police declined to comment on any specifics of the incident yesterday and did not release the name of the officer who was put on leave.

The investigation will look into the "entire incident" to review whether the officers followed guidelines, Llewellyn said.

Online court records show that Zombro has been charged with six counts of second-degree assault, one count of assaulting a law enforcement officer, one count of reckless endangerment, four drug possession charges and four counts of malicious destruction of property in Thursday's incident.

The records also show several previous cases, including theft convictions in Howard, Charles and Anne Arundel counties.

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